I teach 5th grade in an area where my students head off to middle school next year. Their middle school treats 6th grade as a sort of bridge between elementary and middle school. They switch teachers, but have limited options about courses. They are still pulled out of core classes for band, strings, chorus, and gifted and talented services. They have lockers and dress out for gym. It's a good transition year for them, in many ways.
In other ways I feel like they lose out because they aren't in elementary school for one more year. At my school (and I know this isn't true for all, or even most, elementary schools) our students have two and a half hours four days a week for language arts instruction (reading, writing, word study). They probably have an hour and a half on the fifth day. They have an hour, at least, for math instruction five days a week. Science and social studies get less time. My students have thirty minutes four days a week for each of those, at best. Occasionally we'll spend more time on science or social studies when we are really engaged in something. I feel that my students have to be able to read, write, and do math in order to be able to truly understand social studies or science. So I don't have any concerns about how we spend our time (although I love science and social studies and would enjoy spending more time with them).
However, next year they'll have the same amount of time for math class, social studies class, science class, and English class (which will include reading, writing, and word study). What a switch for them! If they remained in elementary school they would still have a greater focus on language arts and math.
This is yet another time where I think tradition and convenience determine how we handle instructional issues. I wonder if one of the reasons we see so many concerns about young people and reading is because of the small amount of attention we give it after elementary school. Does it truly make sense to value every discipline equally? And equally for all students?